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Thomas Russell

ITC posts questionnaires on furniture antidumping case

Deadline to submit responses is July 23

HIGH POINT — The International Trade Commission is beginning to collect data for its upcoming sunset review of the Chinese wood bedroom furniture antidumping case.

The agency has posted questionnaires relating to the case on its Web site. It also sent the forms to some 168 U.S. bedroom producers, 150 furniture importers, 100 purchasers or retailers and at least 150 foreign producers.

"There are going to be very few if any large importers or producers we missed," said George Deyman, a supervisory investigator with the ITC.

However, the ITC is making the forms available online because it wants to give everyone in the industry a chance to submit information for the investigation.

Deyman said the questionnaires went out a little sooner than expected, which means the deadline is earlier too. The forms are now due July 23, rather than in August.

The responses to the questions will help the ITC determine whether the U.S. government should continue imposing duties on wood bedroom furniture imported from China. The duties, which went into effect in June 2004, have aimed to level the playing field for U.S. manufacturers injured due to what the government deems to be illegally priced finished bedroom furniture imported from China.

The review will determine to what extent U.S. producers would be vulnerable to further injury if the duties ended, Deyman said.

There are four questionnaires tailored to U.S. producers, importers and purchasers, and to Chinese manufacturers. For example, the U.S. producers form asks for detailed information on how companies spent any duties they collected through the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, otherwise known as the Byrd Amendment.

The forms also ask for specific information on how much bedroom and other wood furniture firms either produced or imported from 2004 through 2009.

Another set of questions relates to the collection or payment of settlement fees. This controversial and allegedly widespread practice, first reported by Furniture/Today in May 2007, allows Chinese producers to pay a fee in order to avoid being subject to a retroactive duty during the government's annual administrative reviews of the duties.

The questionnaire seeks detailed information on how much monies were either paid or collected through this settlement process. Industry sources say that Chinese factories submit payment to a law firm representing the petitioners, although it remains unclear how that money is ultimately distributed, or how much has been collected in settlement fees thus far.

Due to the complexity of the questionnaires, industry leaders say individuals may need some help in filling them out.

The Furniture Retailers of America, a retail group that opposes the duties, that has raised about $100,000 to pay for legal expenses associated with the case. It has retained a law firm, Hunton & Williams, that can provide assistance to FRA members and others who need help filling out the forms, said Keith Koenig, the president of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Top 100 store City Furniture, who is helping to lead the FRA effort.

"We are hoping they will become members and pay their share," he said. "But at this stage, we need a lot of people filling out the questionnaires."

Another law firm, Squire Sanders, is representing a group of Chinese furniture manufacturers in and around the Guangdong area. This group was formed roughly two weeks ago, said Peter Koenig, an attorney with the firm. He said those manufacturers "intend to fully defend, and fully answer the questionnaires."

Once the ITC collects the questionnaires, it will issue a prehearing report on Sept. 15. A hearing before the commission is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 5 at the ITC offices in Washington.

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